High-Speed Rail

High-speed rail contract inked for Kern County stretch

The California High-Speed Rail Authority officially signed a $444.2 million contract Monday with California Rail Builders for the third construction package of the train line in the San Joaquin Valley.

The execution of the contract came about seven weeks after the rail authority’s board selected California Rail Builders from among four competing bidders to design and build the 22-mile stretch from the Tulare-Kern County line to Poplar Avenue near Shafter.

California Rail Builders is a consortium led by Ferrovial Agroman US Corp, an American subsidiary of Spain’s Ferrovial S.A. The team also includes Eurostudios, a Spanish engineering firm, and Othon Inc., a Houston-based engineering and environmental consulting company.

The California Rail Builders bid came in at $347.5 million; the contract includes another $107 million to cover utility relocation costs for electric, gas and communication lines.

Under the contract terms, the contractor will have just over two years to complete its work – including preparing the route up to the railbed in at-grade and elevated areas, road overpasses, waterway and wildlife crossings, and relocating four miles of existing BNSF freight tracks – once it gets approval from the rail authority to begin. The agency issued a limited notice to proceed on Tuesday.

Two earlier construction contracts are also in effect in the San Joaquin Valley: one from Avenue 17 in Madera to American Avenue at the south end of Fresno, awarded in mid-2013 for about $1 billion; and one from American Avenue to the Tulare-Kern line, awarded early last year for about $1.2 billion.

A later contract will eventually lay steel tracks over all three construction sections through the Valley.

One factor in the pace of progress is likely to be how quickly the rail authority can acquire the right-of-way property it needs for the route. The agency has acquired two of the 169 parcels identified for the Kern County section. On the two earlier contracts, the rail authority has acquired just over half of the 1,277 pieces of property it needs in Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare counties.